School Entrepreneurship Class Teaches T-Shirt Printing

T-shirt printing is a great way to use your creative talents and make some extra money at the same time. In the last few years, t-shirt businesses are booming and the industry has had many successful entrepreneurs arise.

Given the nature of a t-shirt printing, it’s fairly easy to enter the market, in terms of starting a business. When using a heat press and transfers, it doesn’t take much up-front investment. You can print on demand as you get orders.

Meridian High School in Illinois has embraced this concept and actually teaches it as part of a business class.

Within the class, students learn about management, communications, marketing, supply chain, customer service, accounting, production, and more.

[Related Content: How Much Does it Really Cost to Start a T-Shirt Business]


How the Class T-Shirt Printing Business was Born

Tricia Campbell, the business teacher at the school, proposed an idea to her principal in November of 2016.

She proposed the entrepreneurship program to include a t-shirt business. She knew the value that the t-shirt business could bring to the class, since she has been running her own apparel decorating business out of her home, as an Easy Prints dealer, since 2008.

Tricia“I believed that students could do the same things I was doing and it would give them a real, tangible, opportunity to practice business communication, accounting, marketing, management, and so many more business skills”, says Tricia.


The entrepreneurship program does more than teaching business skills for the students in a classroom setting. The students also get real world experience by providing a service to the rest of the school and district to get printed apparel.


business class teaching t-shirt printing


“Additionally I thought we could provide a service to our district at a lower cost and with easier ordering–teachers, coaches, and sponsors could just come to our room to place an order.”

With the class running its own t-shirt business, it allows the students to learn how to operate a business, something that most students don’t have the opportunity to do at this age.

“The students are often very busy with sports and school projects and therefore don’t have time to hold a part time job. This gives students work experience during the school day that can translate into so many other areas in their future.  Many have used this to spark conversations with college athletic coaches, future employers, or at job interviews.”

This is a great resume builder and experience for job and college applications.


What Projects do the Students Work On?

The school has between 10 and 20 students enrolled in the Entrepreneurship class each school year. It’s part of the regular class schedule so they meet daily for 46 minutes as Campbell’s 7th period class.

Each student is the project manager for a current customer.  The class produces between 2,500 and 3,500 shirts each semester, or about 650 shirts each month.

The class’s customers consist of sports coaches from the soccer, volleyball, basketball, track, baseball, and football teams, as well as clubs (FFA, FCS, Student Council) and even local small businesses or community groups such as restaurants, churches, etc.

So if you’re like me, you may be wondering what level of guidance does Campbell provide. How much do the students actually get to do within the business?

Well, when we asked Tricia, she replied, “The students take on every task independently and while I give them the information they need and assist as they have questions, they do it completely on their own. Of course, the first job they do is almost fully guided – they have a ton of questions and I sit with them one-on-one as we email the customer, come up with a design, email a proof, create a price quote, order materials, create the invoice, etc. But after a couple of orders, students are ready to dive in and tackle projects on their own, only coming to me when new questions or problems arise.”

That’s a great testament to the small learning curve needed to start printing your own t-shirts.

With just a small amount of education and learning, someone can have their t-shirt printing business running quickly.

[Related Content: How to Heat Press a T-Shirt (Step-by-Step Guide)]

Students learn how to use the Easy View® online designer at Transfer Express, which allows them to create designs without having any art skills, create mock-ups quickly on apparel, and get a price quote instantly.

There are several heat presses in the classroom including a Hotronix Fusion and Hotronix Auto Open Clam.


Hotronix Fusion in high school classroom



Preparing the Next Generation of Apparel Decorators and Entrepreneurs

These types of projects help the students learn skills within a business setting. The insights they get to being an entrepreneur is very valuable.

It’s very hard to get this type of experience anywhere else, except by doing it hands on. Meridian High School and Tricia Campbell are providing an excellent and unique opportunity for business students.

The students get hands on experience from real jobs and clients, which is better than reading a book, or listening to a lecture.

“The students are learning time management, recordkeeping skills, the importance of organization and attention to detail. They’re learning to deal with frustration and difficult customers at times. They learn to problem solve and find solutions if what they want to happen isn’t working whether that is artwork creation or a supply chain issue with something being out of stock. The kids wouldn’t be able to learn these types of things, hands on, in any other course in our school.”

We wondered if the entrepreneurship program inspired any students to go into business or become an entrepreneur. However, this part of the program is fairly new, just starting in 2016. So the fruits of the labor will soon tell.

“I don’t know of any graduates who have yet become entrepreneurs. My first group of seniors, the class of 2017, is just graduating college this year. But I did have one student graduate high school and go on to work at a screenprinting shop elsewhere as she was fully trained and could dive right in. They found her to be a very valuable employee!”

[Related Content: How to Start a T-Shirt Business]



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